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HCPSS and Howard County Conservancy to Introduce Climate Change Curriculum Supported by NOAA Grant

August 24th, 2021

The following release is jointly distributed by the Howard County Conservancy and Howard County Public School System.

The Howard County Public School System will incorporate a new climate change curriculum unit for all 6th grade science classes, supported by a nearly $400,000 grant to the Howard County Conservancy from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The new curriculum is unique among school systems in Maryland and the region, and will be piloted in three schools during 2021-2022 and incorporated through all HCPSS middle schools over the next three years.

Throughout the fall semester, students will learn about the impacts of climate change and how to take positive action to solve and avoid negative effects, during lessons that investigate how and why some communities bear a greater brunt from severe weather, how the tree canopy helps to mitigate flooding, and the impacts of different land surfaces and urban heat islands. In addition to classroom learning, students will take part in real-world outdoor experiences on both school and Conservancy grounds, by using tools and mapping to measure tree canopy coverage, carbon sequestration, and soil compaction and moisture; collecting and analyzing air and land temperatures; and investigating solutions to mitigate temperature increases to reduce thermal pollution.

The curriculum will also include a focus on environmental justice, supported by partnerships with Howard County NAACP and University of Maryland Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice and Health.

The Howard County Conservancy is a local nonprofit environmental education center that celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020. The Conservancy and HCPSS have collaborated closely in providing environmental education for students at all grade levels since 2003. The organizations currently partner in offering a biodiversity program for all HCPSS 5th graders and a Watershed Report Card project for all 9th graders and 10th grade biology students. The Watershed Report Card project, also funded through a Conservancy/NOAA BWET grant, has gained national recognition. The addition of the 6th grade climate change program will extend environmental learning and watershed field experiences into a substantial part of the HCPSS curriculum at each level – elementary, middle and high school.

“This program could not be more timely or important. We are thrilled to be working with an amazing group of partners to educate and inspire our youth on the science of climate change, achievable solutions, and the incredibly important intersection of climate change and social justice,” said Meg Boyd, Executive Director, Howard County Conservancy.

“The growing frequency of extreme weather emergencies highlights the urgent need for climate change education, making this a very welcome and timely addition to our 6th grade science curriculum,” said HCPSS Superintendent Michael J. Martirano. “Our school system deeply appreciates our close partnership with the Howard County Conservancy, which has been invaluable in providing all students with relevant, hands-on environmental learning experiences.”

“We’re delighted to provide NOAA Chesapeake B-WET funding to support Howard County Conservancy on this timely project,” said Sean Corson, Director of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. “Climate change and environmental justice are the central topics that every sixth grade student in Howard County Public Schools will explore during their Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience. As the effects of climate change accelerate, students must be prepared to understand the challenges and address them in their own communities.”

“To address and combat climate change, our entire community must work together, and that includes our students and children,” said Dr. Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive. “This new curriculum will provide vital context and knowledge for the next generation of climate leaders, activists and policymakers. We’re so grateful that in Howard County we have an incredible team of educators and advocates who are preparing our youngest residents for the realities that lie ahead.”

“I greatly appreciate the support of the Howard County Conservancy and NOAA for the valuable addition of a climate change learning unit to our middle school science curriculum,” said Dr. Chao Wu, Board of Education Chair. “We deeply value our longstanding partnership with the Conservancy in providing robust environmental education for all Howard County students.”

Additional information about Howard County Conservancy student education initiatives is provided online.